The Ghost in General Patton’s Third Army is the memoir of Eugene G. Schulz, a former soldier who served in WWII. Incorporated into the XX Corps, known as a ghost unit by enemy forces for their ability to pop up where least expected, his skills as a typist gives this memoir unique insight into the war. Schulz typed battle orders and other classified documents; that combined with an excellent memory and what must have been a LOT of research makes this book a treasure trove of information. WWII is a popular subject among historians and others and The Ghost in General Patton’s Third army is a fantastic book for people new to the topic.
Along with his own personal experiences, Schulz goes over details of the war relating to the events he personally experienced. For example, he was not present at D-Day (his unit went over afterward) but he still intricately explains D-Day from the crazy amount of logistics required to make it happen to how crucial of a tipping point it was to Allied forces. This aspect picks up later on in the book, past the point of Schulz talking about his hometown.
The documentation of the book is not just limited to words either. Schulz had his camera with him and it survived his entire deployment. There are unique photographs scattered throughout the book showing army camps, town obliterated by air raids, and much more. These images did make one section of the book extremely difficult to read: Schulz’s account of his unit coming across one of the first concentration camps discovered by Allied forces. Keep in mind that prior to the invasion of Germany, the Allies had no knowledge of the concentration camps. The soldiers who discovered those atrocities saw mankind at its worst and Schulz’s description of those horrors is…vivid.
Memoirs are not something I tend to read but I happened to get this one in a Goodreads giveaway. Having the events of a war recounted from the perspective of a soldier rather than as a series of events highlighted in a history book can be an eye opening experience. You have to remember that soldiers, like the rest of us, are people. From privates to generals, at the end of the day, they are just people. They feel fear and grief, they hope and they resolve, they want to do the right thing and they also want to make sure they can come home. They lose their comrades, people who are friends and even brothers to them. The ones who do come home learn to cherish what they have, what they fought for: peace.